Thursday, October 06, 2011

Circus Maximus

In an hour, the first hearing of the trial of former Democratic Party of Japan leader Ozawa Ichiro will open. He is charged with being a co-conspirator in the financial crimes of his former political secretaries Ishikawa Tomohiro, Okubo Takanori and Ikeda Mitsumoto (en).

The charges against Ozawa are bogus or at very worst unprovable. The Tokyo Prosecutors Office looked at the accusations twice. Both times the prosecutors decided that there was no case. That Ozawa is facing a judge today is due only to the efforts of the shadowy Association of Those Seeking The Truth in convincing the No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of the Prosecution (are these terms Stalinist enough for you?) that it should command a judge to appoint three lawyers as prosecutors.

The mainstream new media, which hates Ozawa, is having a field day...and will have several field months (the conventional wisdom is that the judge will issue a decision in April. I am not so sure the wheels of the law will grind so quickly) describing what will be dramatic exchanges of paper between the defense lawyers, the prosecuting lawyers and the judge.

Despite Ozawa's previous stint as the supreme authority in the DPJ and his behind-the-scenes running of the government during the brief Hatoyama Cabinet, it is unlikely that his trial will seriously affect the image of the DPJ or the proceedings of the Diet. The DPJ has quarantined Ozawa by stripping him of his party privileges: he is a Democrat in name only. As for the demands from the opposition parties that Ozawa explain himself, either behind closed doors before the Ethics Committee (the Socialists) or in sworn testimony before the Diet (everybody else), the Noda administration will simply reply that it has no intention to interfere with the actions of another branch of the government and can we get back to discussing the third supplementary budget?

And that will be it.

But on this morning, it is all Ozawa, though in a strangely very low key way.

Later - Here he is.


Ozawa Ichiro arriving at the Tokyo District courthouse at around 9:25 a.m.

Image courtesy: Yomiuri Online

Later still - An example of the kind of press puffery that has dogged Ozawa Ichiro for years, this from The Asahi Shimbun of September 29 (Link).

8 comments:

Janne Morén said...

You know, things rarely are black and white; in this case it's more like two shades of dark grey. Yes, the whole process has of course been politically driven. But none of it would have stuck if there hadn't been actual illegal activity to prosecute in the first place.

Ozawa and his underlings are not clean, and if they're being aimed at by political enemies (and really, when has Ozawa not been the target of enemies he's cheerfully made over the years?) they're also quite stupid to go through with illegal donations, then purposefully act to hide it to remove any doubt they knew what they were doing was wrong.

As for Ozawa, unless there's new evidence or direct testimony he'll probably get acquitted eventually. One of his lieutenants may of course change their mind and testify that he was not unawares, in which case things could change. My own surprise has been that he, as head of his association, does not have legal responsibility for events whether he knows of them or not.

So yes, the legal system has been prodded into action by enemies of Ozawa (that can be a lot of prodding). But they were not railroaded as far as I can tell; the charges are for real illegalities, and they did act to hide them. "Pox on both their houses" may be a bit too simplistic, but my sympathy for Ozawa and his people is decidedly limited.

MTC said...

Herr Morén -

There was no physical evidence at the start of this case, only the testimony of Nishimatsu Kensetsu executives who were already under indictment for an unrelated case. It was only on the basis of the Nishimatsu accusation that it had paid Okubo 35 million yen under the table that police obtained warrants necessary to seize every scrap of paper in Ozawa's and his aides' private homes and the Ozawa office. It was then only after a proctological examination of these documents that prosecutors found the discrepancies in the recording of the 400 million yen loan that Ozawa privately extended to the Rikuzankai in order that the organization might take out a loan for that amount from a bank in order to purchase the plot of land in Setagaya Ward. These discrepancies were likely oversight (400 million sounds like a huge amount of money to misrecord, but then again an investigation of Ishikawa Tomohiro's day book found entries such as "Withdrew 100 million yen in cash. Left it in the tatami room at Ozawa's house."). It was then on the basis of the testimony of a Mizutani Kensetsu executive that he had paid Ishikawa a 50 million yen bribe in return for winning a dam contract in Iwate Prefecture and that a 50 million yen deposit by Ishikawa was found inside the Rikuzankai accounts that Ishikawa and Ikeda were arrested, this despite Ishikawa's insistence he had never met the Mizutani executive who had supposedly handed him the bribe.

As above, there is no physical evidence -- a photo, a letter, a sound recording, a bankbook -- showing that any of the nefarious cash exchanges took place. Not even a third party's testimony. Just the testimony of the executives with their own problems with the law.

Ozawa may be dirty, who knows? However, the trials of the secretaries and the trial that has begun today provide no evidence of such a status.

BiggerInJapan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Janne Morén said...

Credible information from a witness or other accused is generally plenty of reason to get a search warrant, in any country. And "proctological" investigation? As in, it was well hidden?

Please take a step back here and ask yourself if you would be so very, very defensive about this if it had been another case, with another accused? If this had been, say, corporate bribery or tax evasion, had you really gone to this length to try to defend the indefensible?

Yes, there is no proof against Ozawa. Which is why the prosecutors had refused to bring a case, and was only forced to do by by the citizen inquest panel, which in turn needed two tries to get to this point.

The panel clearly overstepped, and was driven by the members' dislike of Ozawa as a person. That's the risk of having amateurs decide such things; the dark side of the original intention of having them able to override potentially corrupt prosecutors. But this is the fault of the panel, not the prosecutors.

MTC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MTC said...

Herr Morén -

The answer to your question is "yes," I would be as defensive. The original search warrant was issued to find evidence of the 35 million yen Okubo purportedly received from the indicted executives of Nishimatsu Kensetsu. No evidence of this transaction was found. Instead, prosecutors, by going through every single transaction of the Rikuzankai, found no record of the 2004 Ozawa loan to the Rikuzankai in the 2005 accounts. They also found that instead of a single 400 million yen deposit in the 2004, a series of in smaller amounts adding up to 400 million had been made, one of which was 50 million yen. This matched a supposed 50 million yen illegal donation made by Mizutani Kensetsu, though no evidence of that payment having been made has ever been found.

The repayment of the 400 million yen loan in 2007 was the act for which Ikeda was charged.

Notice anything odd? There is never any mention of the 2006 accounts in these narratives. There seem to have been no problems with the 2006 accounts. This is impossible, if the 2005 account or the 2007 accounts were in error.

Do you see what I am getting at? A search warrant was issued for one crime, the evidence of which was never found, and was used to find another crime, the evidence of which does not hold up under scrutiny.

This is a simple matter of "we have the criminal, now let us find the crime."

Anonymous said...

@ Janne Moren - thank you for your interesting comment. I have personal experience of something very similar as this Ozawa court case. It was the most surreal thing I have seen, or will ever see, in my life. In my case, the prosecutor was an ex-judge, and the sempai of the judge presiding. Drinking buddies, so to speak. There was NIL evidence, nor, to begin with, was there a crime, or even a misstep, committed by me - ever. Still, it took three years before I was finally acquitted, in the process of which I of course lost my name, job, and all other earthly possessions. The threats that were hurled at me by the prosecutors ("if you won't confess and plead a deal, we will make you go to prison") I can still hear ringing in my ears at night. The judge too, continuously urged us to "settle"(=admitting guilt), and was greatly annoyed when we did not. What was often said by our lawyers to us, is: "It is not about you. Somebody, anybody, has to be found guilty; the prosecutor can not just back off now."

The way I see it, this Ozawa case is nothing but a witch hunt. They opened up a Pandora's box, and can't close it, especially after their recent failures with that Ministry of Health official and the likes.

Anonymous said...

Wait a minute, you have several of the facts about the case wrong.

quote "It was only on the basis of the Nishimatsu accusation that it had paid Okubo 35 million yen under the table"
No, the funds were not "under the table", they were publicly recorded. Nishimatsu executives had set up "dummy" political organizations to be able do donate to politicians over the legal limit, and the Rikuzankai and other political organizations connected with Ozawa were on the receiving end. Nobody has ever denied the existence of the 35 million yen, only whether Okubo was aware that the funds were actually from Nishimatsu, rather than the "Miraiken" and "Shinseiken". Okubo himself originally admitted in court that he knew that the funds were from Nishimatsu, presumably to avoid a long, drawn out trial with lots of testimony.

quote "These discrepancies were likely oversight (400 million sounds like a huge amount of money to misrecord, but then again an investigation of Ishikawa Tomohiro's day book found entries such as "Withdrew 100 million yen in cash. Left it in the tatami room at Ozawa's house.")."

The crux of the case is whether it can be called "oversight", but it should be noted that none of the people involved on Ozawa's side can agree as to (1) why they needed to take out a loan from the bank (2) why they ended up with the discrepancies (3) why they ended up putting back everything in order by filing more false reports, rather than filing for a correction.

quote "a 50 million yen deposit by Ishikawa was found inside the Rikuzankai accounts"

This is totally wrong. If the PPO had been able to find such a deposit, they would have had a much stronger case.

quote "As above, there is no physical evidence -- a photo, a letter, a sound recording, a bankbook -- showing that any of the nefarious cash exchanges took place"

This is also wrong. As I noted, the 35 million is in plain sight for anyone to see. Also, you contradict yourself by saying that the PPO found a 50 million yen deposit by Ishikawa in the paragraph before.

quote "Not even a third party's testimony. Just the testimony of the executives with their own problems with the law"

To be accurate, Hisashi Kawamura, the former president of Mizutani Kensetsu, is a "third party", who has not been accused of anything.

I'm not saying that there are no problems with the case or verdict, but you are misrepresenting too many important facts about it.
.

Ozawa may be dirty, who knows? However, the trials of the secretaries and the trial that has begun today provide no evidence of such a status.